Bridge heights and openings

There are a number of historic bridges in The Broads which present a navigational challenge to yachts and larger vessels.

Yachts will typically need to lower their masts when navigating through most bridges in The Broads. There are also rail bridges at Somerleyton, Reedham, Trowse and Oulton Broad that have been constructed with swing mechanisms which are staffed and opened by Network Rail as required by individual vessels. Other types of bridges open by lifting mechanisms and these are at Breydon Water, Novi Sad, St Julian's and Carrow Road bridge in Norwich.

Please note that the Broads Authority does not operate the swing bridges or lifting bridges in the navigation area. However, for the three Norwich bridges an opening can be arranged through Broads Control on 01603 756056 providing at least 24 hours notice.

Although the rail swing bridges at Somerleyton and Reedham may be opened by Network Rail without a direct contact being made with the operator, individual vessels may use VHF channel 12 to request a specific opening where required. The bridges can be swung 24 hours a day.

Somerleyton Swing Bridge

Trowse bridge currently is currently experiencing mechanical problems requiring extra assistance to operate. Network Rail therefore require seven days’ notice to open the bridge. The opening times are 9.05 am on Sundays and any day between 02.00 am and 04.00 am. To arrange opening please call Network Rail on either 01603 675297 or 01603 763440. Any problems in arranging the opening of the bridge should be reported to the Broads Authority Monitoring Officer on 01603 756085 or to rob.rogers@broads-authority.gov.uk, who will be pleased to assist.

Oulton Broad swing bridge can be booked by contacting Oulton Broad Yacht Station on 01502 574946.

Clearance measurements for bridges given are at Average High Water during summer. There will be greater clearance near Low Water, especially at Great Yarmouth and in the southern rivers. Barometric pressure, rainfall and wind conditions affect river levels so caution should be exercised and bridge gauge board carefully noted.

List of bridges

Bridge Clearance
metric
Clearance
imp
Width
metric
Width
imp
VHFDescription
Acle 3.66 12' 23.7 78'   Fixed road
Beccles Road Old* 1.98 6' 6" 12.6 41' 6"   Fixed road*
Beccles Bypass New 3.66 12' 28.9 95'   Fixed road
Breydon Fixed Span 3.96 13'    12 Fixed spans
Breydon Road Lifting 3.51 11' 6"    12 Lifting span
Haddiscoe New Cut 7.32 24' 12.1 40'   Fixed road
Norwich Jarrolds Bridge 3.63 11'11"     Fixed pedestrian
Norwich Lady Julian 3.96 13'     12 Carrow Swing pedestrian
Lowestoft Harbour  2.16 7'1"     14 Lifting road
Ludham 2.59 8' 6" 5.4 18'   Fixed road
Norwich Carrow 4.27 14' 12.5 30' 12 Lifting road
Norwich Foundry 3.05 10' 16.4 54'   Fixed road
Norwich Novi Sad 4.88 16' 16.5   12 Carrow Swing pedestrian
Norwich Trowse 2.74 9' 12.9 30' 12 Swing rail
Norwich Bishop's Bridge 3.2 10'6" 6.05 19'10"   Arch Fixed road
Postwick Viaduct 10.67 35'     Fixed road
Potter Heigham New 2.31 7'7" 22.4 73' 6"   Fixed road
Potter Heigham Old* 1.98 6'6"     Fixed road*
Oulton Broad, Lake Lothing 4.57  15'     Swing rail
Oulton Broad Mutford 2.39 7' 10" 6.4 21' 14, 73 Lifting road
Reedham 3.05 10' 16.6 54' 6" 12 Swing rail
St Olaves 2.44 8' 23.9 78' 6"   Fixed road
Somerleyton 2.59 8' 6" 16.4 54' 12 Swing rail
Thorpe Rail (each) 1.83 6'     Fixed rail
Wayford 2.13 7' 6.1 20'   Fixed road
Wroxham Rail 4.57 15' 14.3 47'   Fixed rail
Wroxham Road* 2.21 7 '3" 8 26'6"   Fixed road*
Yarmouth Haven 2.9 9' 6" 26.8 88' 12 Lifting road
Yarmouth Acle Road 2.13 7' 21.3 70'   Fixed road
Yarmouth Vauxhall 2.06 6' 9" 30.4 100'   Fixed foot

* Arched bridges

NB In all cases, tidal levels can vary considerably and so affect the above figures.

Bridge Pilots

Potter Heigham Bridge. Hire boats must use the bridge pilot.

At Potter Heigham hire boats must use the bridge pilot from Phoenix Fleet boatyard. Pilot service available 8.30am-6.00pm, depending on tide and weather conditions. Telephone 01692 670460.

Frequently asked questions

Will my boat pass through the bridge?

Passing under bridges can be dangerous if not done properly. Know the air draft of your boat (the height of your boat from the waterline to the highest part of the boat) and check the clearance available on the gauge board at each bridge every time you pass through. Tides and rainfall amounts can alter the level of the water and so the amount of clearance will also vary by several feet in some places.

What is a gauge board and how does it work?

bridge gauge board

Most bridges have a gauge board which give you the definite current clearance available (below you can see a picture of a gauge board). Where the water lines up with a measurement will give you the clearance currently available at any given time. e.g. in the picture the water lines up with 9'9" or 3m, and so this would be the clearance available. You still need to take account of other issues, including wind and waves as this can mean you boat rises and falls, so please allow more clearance in poor conditions.

You should also consider the shape of bridge (arch bridges can mean more clearance will be required for wider boats), the design of the boat and the experience of the person at the helm. Most bridges also have advance gauge boards in place so you can see the available clearance before reaching a bridge in order to plan your timings ahead of your arrival.

Who has right of way?

Vessels travelling against the current (into the flow) must give way and allow vessels travelling with the current (being pushed by the flow) to pass through the bridge first.

Flow of water under bridges

Be aware that bridges create a narrowing in the river and can cause the flow to increase in speed meaning you may feel like your boat has slowed, do not increase speed as this will lead to an increase in wash. Once through the bridge the flow will return to normal.

What about the people onboard?

The helm should ensure the boat and everyone onboard is prepared well in advance of reaching the bridge.  If required, windscreens should be lowered and anything that has been placed on top of the vessel removed.  Crew members must get to a lower part of the vessel and prepare to duck down if necessary. Life jackets should be worn by everyone out on deck.

How can I get a swing bridge to open?

A single red flag indicates the bridge is working and in service, two red flags indicate it is not working and it is not in service. In the photograph you can see Reedham Swing Bridge flying one red flag to show it is working and in service.

Reedham swing bridge

You will also need to take note of any bridge keeper’s signboards. The 'bridge will open' board relates only to the waiting time. This is a fixed sign and will not be withdrawn even when the bridge goes 'off service'.

The signal requiring the bridge to open is three prolonged blasts on the horn or whistle. Most bridges also monitor VHF Channel 12, but during urgent or emergency matters relating to the rail network, the radio will not be answered.

If you have any problems you can contact Broads Control on 01603 756056.

My boat might not clear the bridge if I don't lower my screen etc. but I'd rather leave the boat as it is. Will the bridge still open?

The bridge will only open for craft clearly unable to pass under.

What should I do whilst waiting for the bridge to open?

Power driven boats navigating against the current or tidal flow should ease speed or stop when approaching a bridge to allow boats navigating with the current or tidal flow to have right of way.

Whilst waiting for the bridge to open, keep well clear. Tides can run very strongly, especially at Reedham and Somerleyton.  Pontoons are available for boats waiting for bridges at upstream and downstream of Reedham and Somerleyton bridges. Please take note of the tidal flow direction when mooring on the pontoons and ensure you approach into the tide.

Do bridges have scheduled opening times?

Reedham and Somerleyton swing bridges have no scheduled times, but opening throughout the day is dependent on the train timetable. Trowse swing bridge requires advanced notice to open which can be arrange through Broads Control 01603 756056.

A train crossed over the bridge 10 minutes ago but the bridge has still not opened, why?

The bridge operator has to wait for a safety clearance signal from operators further down the line before opening the bridge.

Alternatively there may be another train due, or there may be an emergency which takes priority over opening the bridge.

When I see the bridge open should I hurry through?

No, you should never ‘race’ for a bridge. Please consider moored boats and monitor your boat wash and keep to the speed limits.